Wednesday April 16, 2014

Gilchrist: May MP's reform bill set Cathy free

Those of us in the media have plenty of chances to interact with our elected officials, be they mayors, MLAs or MPs.

The average person can also call up these folks and set up a meeting if the urge strikes, but it’s likely most won’t. They may never even see their local representatives in person beyond a glimpse at a Remembrance Day service or in a parade on Canada Day.

So hearing what those we elected to represent us on local, provincial and national issues have to say is an important way to gauge if their views and values align with ours.

The main way MLAs and MPs connect directly with constituents is via newsletters and websites and this week, a non-profit group rated how effectively MP’s websites how engage with voters.

Samara looked at 14 criteria like whether the site contained an MP’s biography, office location, email details, hours of operation, what he or she does in the riding, in Parliament, which community events were attended and more.

Only 17 MPs scored 11 out of 14 or higher for their websites and five had no website at all.

Which led me to peruse MP Cathy McLeod’s site (she was in neither of the above categories).

McLeod is a stalwart devotee to her party and its leader, and while highly accessible, is careful to toe the party line when speaking to media.

So careful in fact, it leaves us wishing she might say something just a little more colourful now and then, tell us what she really thinks.

Her website, not surprising, is a reflection of this former nurse and mayor of Pemberton’s public persona — just what it should be but nothing that would really pique your interest.

And it heaves with material about what the Harper government has done lately.

She offers many photos and videos of where she’s been in the riding, has all the pertinent contact details and even Tweets on current issues, but the latter is about the only place you can get a sense of who she is as a person.

For instance, Thursday she Tweeted: “Tonight at the special cmttee focused on Violence Against Indigenous Women I will be thinking of CJ Fowler tragic murder a yr ago. #16days.”

Knowing she has the young woman who died here last year in her thoughts during parliamentary work offers a glimpse at a thoughtful, compassionate side. The 16 Days hashtag refers, by the way, to a campaign against gender-based violence, “from peace in the home to peace in the world” with 16 days of activism.

I’d like to see more of this person than the one who starts out her MP mailout with, “On October 16th, His Excellence the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, delivered the Speech from the Throne . . .”


If Tory MP Michael Chong’s bill — which would give MPs the power to force a leadership race and would remove a party leader’s ability to overrule riding association’s candidate choices — was passed, would we see a more relaxed Cathy, one who tells us what she really thinks?

I’m not asking for another Kevin Krueger, but just something now and then that reveals the person beneath the politician.

More Cathy, less Stephen, please.

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